PGR Experience: Battling Isolation
This is a guest post by Ayesha Abida. Ayesha is a first-year PGR based in the School of Education. Her PhD is in Applied Linguistics/TESOL. As someone who loves travelling and socialising, Ayesha shares her advice on combatting the common feeling of isolation for PGRs and offers some tips for getting to know other researchers here at the UofG. Undertaking a PhD can be an isolating experience in comparison to undergraduate and even taught postgraduate courses, when you might have experienced a more dynamic campus life. The reason is simple: in taught programmes, you get to meet your ‘class’ regularly, collaborate with them for group projects and assignments and, in between all this academic activity, you make new friends – some may even become lifelong friends. There are also regular opportunities to take part in social activities, outdoor trips, night life and much more for taught programme students. Working on a PhD, it can prove slightly trickier to discover social events and activities that feel relevant for you. You tend to remain within a cocoon – in the office or at home – where it can feel like all you do is read, write, edit and repeat. It may prove even more isolating for those who come to a foreign country for the first time and are thus completely new to the city and everything it contains. Hopefully, these tips will show that there are ways to combat the isolation that all too often creeps into the PGR experience and inspire you to get out there and meet each other!
Make friends in the office
Those who are assigned an office space should invest some effort in making friends with their office mates because they are the people you will see most often throughout your PhD. However, many PGRs choose to work from home, only coming to the office for meetings or teaching commitments. By doing so you are depriving yourself of an invaluable aspect of university routine. While at home you may be tempted to oversleep, watch TV, play games and waste time in doing extra household chores. Therefore, you might find the routine of coming to the office more productive (although everyone's working patterns are different).
If you don't have a dedicated social space in your office building, try to make a kitchen corner in the office with the consent of all office members and enjoy short tea or coffee breaks together. This will also provide a break from exhausting study on the computer. However, it's true that many PGRs don't have an allocated desk space during their research which can make it even more difficult to schedule time with colleagues and friends. Organising social events with others from across your department can be a great way to meet new people, whether or not you have your own office space. Many departments have dedicated social committees for their PGRs so why not drop your administration team an email and ask how to get involved. The School of Critical Studies for example, holds regular coffee mornings for PGRs where you can get together for a good natter. The SCS social committee for postgraduates also organises end of term events including ceilidhs and Christmas parties. If your school doesn't have a social committee, why not reach out and start your own?
Get involved by joining clubs and societies
Clubs and societies are a great way to socialise and enjoy new experiences. We are lucky to have societies a-plenty here at the UofG – take a look at the SRC guide to see what you fancy getting involved in. It's true that many societies appear to be aimed at undergraduate students which can be slightly off-putting, especially when you want to spend time with others who share your experiences – but look again! Your first stop could be the UofG Mature Students Association. These guys offer support and social events for students who are aged 21 and over. They are open to people from across all disciplines and degree programmes so you are sure to meet some friendly faces. They also have dedicated study and social space on the top floor of 62 Oakfield Avenue so why not drop in and see what's going on? Another society which aims to connect students at all levels is the UofG Erasmus Student Network. You don’t have to be an international student, or here on an Erasmus exchange, to get involved with the network and in fact, the society is open to 'anyone looking to meet new people from different places and cultures'. Perfect for those of us who are new to Glasgow, whether from across the globe or across the city! You can even create a club or society of your own to invite like-minded people - check the SRC advice on setting up your own club to get started.
Learn new stuff
Start new activities and learn new skills in whatever fascinates you. If you ever wanted to learn to play the piano, to become a confident swimmer, or even learn how to cook, now is the time. Make the most of this time and take back some invaluable new skills. Check out the UofG sports services if you feel like getting active. Here on campus, either in the Stevenson Building or over on Garscube, you can take a course, starting this Spring, in beginners swimming, squash or yoga. If you want to try your hand at everything until you discover what works for you, why not try one of the drop-in sports sessions. The sports team offer drop-in sessions in everything from basketball to table tennis.
Plan days out
Short day trips are an excellent way to reduce stress and refresh. You don't need to spend too much on these activities either. A day-pass for a local bus can give you the ease and convenience of roaming around the areas which the subway does not cover. Megabus provides cheap intercity transport facilities by which you can plan a day trip to nearby Scottish cities too. Cheap bus or train tickets can also be found to places to other destinations in the UK if you plan in advance and book well ahead. Take a look at the UofG Great Days Out Society too. They aim to help students make the most of their time in Scotland by arranging trips to sites across the country. Some of their previous trips have included Edinburgh Castle, whiskey distilleries and more locally, the Glasgow Science Centre. Most of the events cost less than £10 and they are open to everyone.
Another good way to relax and socialise, is to eat out as often as possible with a good friend without breaking the bank. A lot of cafes and restaurants offer student discounts so take a good look around the city to find ways to treat yourself. Glasgow boasts great location, art and history. Visit the museums, parks and art galleries and strive to enjoy life alongside completing your PhD and take home both memories and the degree.